I have an I.A.B. 1863 Sharps .54 (technically not a muzzleloader) that I've decided to take on for fun. It's in excellent condition. Is anyone in the Wasilla-Fishhook area that I can pester with the thousands of questions I have? The fella at Sportsmans was helpful, but I'm finding that I need special items that they don't carry. I'd rather purchase locally and get the right stuff the first time.
That's always looked like a fun gun. Let us know how it works out!
Just be aware that while you can use it legally during the general hunting seasons, being a breechloader it won't be legal in any of the special muzzleloader hunts.
Thanks for the info. I'd eventually like to work in a hunt or two with it, but for now just want to get to the range.
I'd shoot with you if there wasn't a plane ride between us, but maybe this will get you going.
I shoot a fair bit of conical bullets, but a whole lot more round balls because they're cheap. If the twist rate on the barrel is slower than 1:48 it likely won't shoot conicals anyway, but if it's faster it will still shoot round balls just fine.
My generic 54 cal round ball load is a .530 ball with a lubed .018 patch and a volume measure of 80 grains of 2f Goex black powder. If you can't get the black powder, substitute the same volume of Pyrodex RS or Select, but be sure to clean that bore REALLY well. The perchlorates in Pyrodex residue eat steel quickly, and it's hard to get the last bit out. If you want to dodge the Pyrodex and ease cleaning a bit substitute 70 grains of 777 in 2f granulation. It's "hotter" so you have to reduce loads 10-15%.
I don't know the actual bore diameter on an IAB 54, so there's a chance it could be a little different than "standard." If that .530/.018 combo turns out too tight, drop to a .015 patch. If it's real easy to start and your recovered patches are torn or shredded, you'll need to tighten things up either by going to a .022 lubed patch or a .535 ball and .018 patch for good accuracy. It's a little fiddly, but once you hit on a good combo it will be a reliable and accurate shooter.
BTW- I'm not a real fan of sabots because they're gosh darned expensive for as much as I shoot. I like using all-lead conicals such as the Hornady Great Plains or TC Maxi instead, both because they're cheaper and heavier. But I get the best accuracy when I get a lubed felt wad or "bore button" between them and the powder.
If you get hooked on this stuff and shoot lots, get back to us here and we can pass on advice for casting your own. It's easy and the basic gear is relatively cheap. Once you start casting, your round balls and conicals are free.